Wednesday, 8 July 2009

An angry analyst

It's time to talk about this chart. I've tried to ignore it, but it's everywhere. It turned up in two of our pitches recently and if it does it again, I'll be honest, I hope the audience crucifies whoever's presenting it.

My initial opinion, was 'well that's pretty poor, let's move on' but as well as our pitches, it's been on Flowing Data, the BBC, Freakonomics... the list goes on.
At least Flowing Data put it up to explain what's wrong with it. Others seem to be debating whether it's an acceptable visualisation or not.

This is very simple. No. It's not.

The problems with the graphic - it's absolutely not a chart - are well documented and range from having no units on the y axis and an inconsistent x axis (look at the sizes of the gaps between years) to no documented source for the data at all. Which, lets face it, is because there isn't any data - it's a picture that might as well have been sketched with crayons.

If it looked like what it is though, it wouldn't be on the BBC, or Freakonomics because then it would just be a sketch of one person's opinion on how media is evolving. And not even a particularly good one.

It's been picked up all over the place because it looks scientific. It looks like there's real data and research behind it. Look at those lines; they kink; if it was all just made up they'd be smooth, surely? Only real data looks like that.

If you're one of those people who thinks that media and marketing don't need proper statistics and real research, fine. Just don't talk to me. But have enough confidence in your beliefs not to resort to making up or using pseudo scientific rubbish like this.

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